Dark arts: an Austrian jeweller’s alchemical approach

Hauser in his Viennese garden atelier and external shot of the atelier.
Jeweller and goldsmith Thomas Hauser creates alloy mixes, in an art nouveau studio at the bottom of his garden. Pictured left: Hauser in his Viennese garden atelier. Right: external shot of the atelier
(Image credit: Lukas Schaller)

Austrian jeweller and goldsmith Thomas Hauser founded his own brand, Atelier Allure in 1989 in New York. Today he works in Vienna from a tiny art nouveau garden studio. In 2013, he won a Red Dot Design Award for a series of rings made using Noble Concrete, a fabric he developed with the Technical University of Vienna.

Now, he has cooked up a new mix, Niellium, and crafted a series of rings in blacker-than-black metal created without the need for coating or surface treatment. Intrigued by Hauser’s unique approach, Wallpaper* asked him to elaborate on his practice and process…

W*: Do you feel compelled, as a jeweller, to create new materials?
TH: I’m driven by the desire to fully realise both my craftsmanship and creative potential; an alchemist turns the impossible into the possible. This precious, original alloy marks the beginning of a creative process that results in raw material becoming transformed into an emotionally appealing object. Orchestrating the dialogue between various materials and forms is perhaps the source of my alchemistic approach.

It seems you have presented contemporary jewellery design with a new point of view…
The jewellery industry often separates design and fabrication. It focuses on designing an appearance or a 'look'. This can mean that aspects of craftsmanship, potential and even the aura of the material take a backseat. Very often a material’s strength is not the origin of a creative solution. When form and material establish a unity, the distinctive feature of such a piece of jewellery is defined by the interplay between them. I’m excited by that symbiosis.

How did you get the mix right? The process sounds challenging.
The genesis of the alloy began about 30 years ago [and] I discovered it in a Paris atelier about ten years ago. Having intensely analysed it over the past five years, I know the advantages and disadvantages of the alloy and how I can creatively bring it to life. I know what it likes and what it does not appreciate too much. It suggests its own particular surfaces and curves and colour variations in the black. Depending on the state of the metal surface, I can also vary the shades of grey. These are fascinating opportunities for creative play.

What’s the most important thing you have discovered?
Even for basic operations such as polishing I had to find new pastes, polishing speeds and polishing tools. Thinking of a barber who hones his razor on a leather strap gave me the idea for the right polishing method; I discovered a polishing paste that gives the right amount of shine in an auto repair workshop. The method for texturing surfaces also had to be created from scratch and I had to invent new stone setting techniques. Most of the basic goldsmithing techniques had to be reinvented from scratch. The effect would be completely different if they were designed in gold or platinum.

Tell us more about the new 'Choreutai' collection of rings.
The shapes of the 12 'Choreutai' pieces are defined by the characteristics of the material and are made specifically for it. Each is composed out of one single basic form, in narrow and wide varieties, as a result of the metal being sanded and polished. Geometrical landscapes emerge from the diverse facets. I’m fascinated by applying traditional craft manufacturing techniques to create jewellery that expresses a new contemporary design vocabulary.

As originally featured in the June 2016 issue of Wallpaper* (W*207)

Rings are made of platinum, palladium and silver.

Hauser's new 'Choreutai' rings are crafted from Niellium a black alloy composed of platinum, palladium and silver

(Image credit: Lukas Schaller)


For more information, visit Thomas Hauser's website

Photography: Lukas Schaller. Still life: Andy Barter

Caragh McKay is a contributing editor at Wallpaper* and was watches & jewellery director at the magazine between 2011 and 2019. Caragh’s current remit is cross-cultural and her recent stories include the curious tale of how Muhammad Ali met his poetic match in Robert Burns and how a Martin Scorsese Martin film revived a forgotten Osage art.